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Viewer's Guide: NBA on MLK Day

Everything you need to know for Monday's 12-game slate, including 4 nationally-televised matchups.

DeMar DeRozan and the Bulls are set to take on the Grizzlies on MLK Day at 3:30 ET on TNT.

This year marks the 36th anniversary of the NBA celebrating the life and legacy of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a full slate of compelling matchups and classic games. However, the history of the NBA and honoring the civil-rights leader dates back 54 years to King’s untimely death in 1968. It was then that Oscar Robertson recruited 27 players to participate in the Pro Basketball All-Star Benefit Game at the Singer Bowl in Queens, New York to raise money for Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. 

Throughout January, all 30 NBA teams will honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Since King’s birthday became a federal holiday in 1983, the NBA has continued its tradition of playing basketball on this date with a special focus on Atlanta and Memphis, the respective cities where King was born and tragically killed. The NBA remains dedicated to furthering Dr. King’s fight for equality and justice with league activations and community engagement.

Here’s a guide to the full 12-game slate on Monday, including four nationally-televised matchups:

Charlotte Hornets (23-20) vs. New York Knicks (22-21)

Hornets star LaMelo Ball will take on the Knicks for the 2nd time this season.

The Hornets visit the Knicks who haven’t lost a game at home since Dec. 23, thanks to the play of RJ Barrett. The third-year swingman has come alive for New York, scoring three of his five 30-plus point games this season at The Garden during that stretch. The Hornets, who are 11-14 on the road in 2021-22, earned an impressive 109-98 win in Philadelphia last Wednesday behind Gordon Hayward’s unbelievable shooting night (13-for-16 on 81.3% from the field). Hayward alongside LaMelo Ball and the Hornets’ young core will look to continue their recent luck on the road and halt the Knicks’ home streak. This is the second of three meetings between the two teams as Charlotte defeated New York 104-96 on Nov. 12 in which Ball recorded a career-high 17 rebounds.

Chicago Bulls (27-14) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (30-15)
3:30 ET, TNT

Ja Morant and the Grizzlies look to get back on track when they meet the Bulls for the 1st time this season.

The Grizzlies will host the East-leading Bulls at FedEx Forum, just a short distance from the National Civil Rights Museum. Chicago will be without its All-Star guard Zach LaVine who suffered a left knee injury in a 138-95 loss to Golden State on Friday. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies will look to bounce back after their season-high 11-game win streak was snapped — again by the Warriors — on Thursday. Expect a must-see matchup between Kia MVP contenders DeMar DeRozan and Ja Morant.

Milwaukee Bucks (27-18) vs. Atlanta Hawks (17-25)

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Trae Young will face off in a rematch of last year’s East finals on MLK Day.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the defending NBA champ Bucks will visit Trae Young and the slumping Hawks in Atlanta, a city of immense importance on MLK Day. Milwaukee seeks revenge against Atlanta after Young dropped 42 points on Nov. 12 to earn a 120-100 victory in the first rematch of last year’s East finals. But the Hawks have struggled to bring that same energy most of this season as they’ve fallen to 12th in the Eastern Conference and 22nd overall. As for the Bucks, Giannis has been absolutely dominating on both ends, scoring 30-plus points in seven of the Bucks’ last eight games, resulting in four victories including a monster 118-99 win over Steph Curry and the Warriors last Thursday. The two-time MVP also set a career-high for free throws without a miss when he went 17-for-17 in Saturday’s 103-96 loss to Toronto.

Utah Jazz (29-14) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (21-22)
10:30 ET, NBA TV

Will LeBron James lead the Lakers to a much-needed victory against the Jazz?

LeBron James and the Lakers will take on the Jazz for the first time this season with both teams hoping to clean up their recent struggles. LeBron has led Los Angeles in scoring for 13 straight games but that hasn’t been enough as the Lakers are coming off their 3rd straight loss following a 133-96 blowout loss to the Nuggets on Saturday, which put them back below .500. Utah snapped its four-game losing streak with Sunday’s comprehensive 125-102 victory in Denver. The rout coincided with Rudy Gobert’s return from Health and Safety Protocols. Not surprisingly, the Jazz allowed their lowest point total in more than a month after struggling to get stops in the three-time Defensive Player of the Year’s absence.

NBA on MLK Day: Complete schedule

All games below are available on NBA League Pass:

New Orleans Pelicans at Boston Celtics (12:30 ET)

Philadelphia 76ers at Washington Wizards (2 ET)

Brooklyn Nets at Cleveland Cavaliers (3 ET)

Indiana Pacers at LA Clippers (3:30 ET)

Portland Trail Blazers at Orlando Magic (7 ET)

Toronto Raptors at Miami Heat (7:30 ET)

Oklahoma City Thunder at Dallas Mavericks (8:30 ET)

Phoenix Suns at San Antonio Spurs (8:30 ET)